I love any excuse to visit the local Asian grocer and having my parents over for a special dinner was the perfect one. Like my spice drawers, I have a well-stocked pantry and love filling it even fuller with exotic and foreign food items. I mean, who wouldn’t love to pick and choose from the above bottles when deciding on what to cook for dinner? Thick dark caramel soy, a salty, sweet viscous liquid that glooped into my pot, ready to turn anything into a shiny Asian flavoured meal.
I decided to do a twice cooked Chinese chicken dish with rice and Chinese greens for dinner on Monday night. I found many recipes on the internet but none of them were exactly what I wanted to cook. I knew I was going to have to mish mash recipes. I wanted a braised chicken that I could then deep fry and serve with a shan tung type vinegar dressing with coriander and chilli. So I made one up.
For the master stock and five spice salt I used this recipe from the SBS food site. I braised the chook for the recommended time and then left it in the pot overnight to infuse all the flavours. Monday morning I took the chook out of the braising liquid and dried it off with paper towel, popped in on a rack and put it in the fridge for the day to dry it out completely. This is the trick to getting really, really crispy skin. Although, trying to get the slippery, soft jellied sucker out of the liquid was no mean feat. Tongs, big spoon and several buggers later, it was out. If you’ve ever seen a celebrity chef do the braising chicken recipe you will NEVER see them trying to take it out of the pot. Impossible.
One ugly bird once out of the braising liquid.
Black Vinegar Dressing
- 160ml Black Vinegar
- 2Tb dark (caramel) soy
- 120ml light soy sauce
- 4Tb castor sugar
- Couple Tb fresh coriander
- as little or as much fresh chili as you can bear, we’re a bit wussy so I used one (just a little tip, if you have masses of chili’s leftover after your summer garden winds up, put them into bags, whole, and pop them in the freezer. The taste is just as good as off the tree. Sort of)
Put all the liquid ingredients and sugar into a saucepan and boil gently until the sugar has dissolved. I played around a little with the ingredients until I was happy with the flavour, when it was a mix of tangy, salty, and sweet. Add the coriander and chili when you’re ready to serve the dish.
Chop the chicken into quarters, straight down through the breast and backbone, then in half again. In the meantime fill a pot with oil, one big enough to add your chicken pieces to deep fry. When the oil is hot enough, carefully place the chicken in and fry, turning over a few times so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. As the chicken is already cooked, you’re only crisping the skin, not cooking it, so don’t leave it in too long or it’ll dry out.
When done, drain it on a cake rack rather than paper towel, it drains better this way.
I had steamed rice left over from the butter chicken the night before and wanted something different than just plain steamed rice. I didn’t want fried rice, I wanted something with a bit of texture, but could still soak up the vinegary dressing and five spice salt. Have you ever had rice stick to the bottom of the rice cooker and had it go crunchy? It’s not burnt, you know, it’s tasty. And apparently, crunchy rice is a thing. I realised this once I Googled “Crunchy rice” and I found many articles on it, but no recipe. So I made something up.
Put some oil in a pan, add a little garlic salt, and pour in the cold rice. I added a few little bits of butter just to add flavour, it’s not completely necessary. And then let it sit, on low, bubbling away for at least 20 minutes so it could form a crust. Push the edges away with a spatular so it doesn’t stick completely. When it’s done, you can check by lifting it a little and making sure it’s nice and brown. Put a plate over the pan, and flip it out. Easy peasy. And the end result is this.
Chuck some greens in the steamer with a little bit of sesame oil. Make the five spice salt. Put it all on platters and sit down with a bottle of Pinot Grigio and a container of babywipes.
Do you shop at the little local Asian or Indian grocers and find lots of magical, wonderful exotic foodstuffs that you just have to have but know may never use?